Nathaniel Russet normally worked through lunch, relieving Daisy from the front counter of their hotel. This hour gave him a chance to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the busy work day, to capture the sights, to absorb the sounds, to take in the scents, and catch up with his thoughts. There usually wasn't much activity at this time of day; all patrons had checked out by this time, new ones hadn't arrived yet, and the cleaning crew was still hard at work making each room appear pristine and new. He'd typically eat his lunch--made from home--at the front desk, lobby door wide open. From there, he could smell the exhaust of the cars snaking down the distant highway as well as the aging donuts from the pastry place a few blocks down, the perfume of the clerk from the jewelry shop across the street, and the footsteps of whoever trekked the sidewalk by the hotel. He could hear that distant highway too, as well as the conversations of the construction team on break, the whisper of the trees lining the back of the hotel, and the scurry of mice beneath the ground. To him, this was normal, mundane, part of his everyday routine. To any other person, Nate was just a lean, endearingly-scruffy man at the front counter eating a sandwich.
That morning, however, while examining the roof of the hotel he co-owned, he had heard the tractor in the hay field right by this tiny village give way, followed by the pained screams of old man John Frazier, the faint scent of blood punctuating the cry for help. So he had abandoned the roof for the time being, left the hotel to Daisy's devices, and rushed out to help a neighbor in need.
Noon rolled around. Daisy secured the lobby so that she could go to lunch. And it began to rain.
That was when Nate rumbled up in his old pickup truck, a noisy beast from the 60s that had never let him down, parking in the spot off to the side of the building reserved for the staff. He climbed out slowly, exhausted, his mind numb and his senses fried. Mud scuffed his long-sleeved flannel shirt and jeans. Old man John Frazier had passed out on the tractor, he had fallen, his leg... Trying not to think about it too much, Nate passed a calloused hand over his weary face--sharp features lined with stubble. He raked a hand through his light-brown hair as he slammed the door behind him and did not bother rushing or providing cover from the rain as it began to fall more generously. He needed the cleansing, even if it couldn't cleanse his thoughts.
He smelled her before he saw her, even through the rain, the scent of an unfamiliar woman. A visitor? Nothing out of the ordinary--this was a hotel, after all, and a common rest stop for travelers too weary to make the last few hours to the nearest city. Still, he took a quick glance, sky-blue eyes falling upon an attractive young woman sitting in her car.
Nate paid her no other mind after that glance as he fished his keys out his pocket and glanced at his watch: twelve thirty. Daisy was still out for lunch. So he unlocked the door, stepped inside, and shrugged off his flannel shirt, revealing a white tank top underneath; he couldn't man the front desk covered in mud, could he? The front desk, as he stepped around it, obscured his dirty pants as his rain-damp hair moistened his shoulders. He looked around for a spare shirt, seeing only Daisy's things, and sighed. This would have to do until Daisy returned--then he could go home and change.
He stood at the center of the counter and waited, allowing the gentle thrumming of the rain outside to numb his thoughts.